I’ve just arrived at Changi’s Terminal 3 on a Singapore Airlines A 380 flight from Zürich. It’s 05h45 in the morning and my onward connection to Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan is not until 13h50. Eight hours to go.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
My onward flight will be leaving from T2. The transfer between T3 and T2 could not be easier. There is a dedicated train which takes less than five minutes to make the journey. As I take a step from the air-conditioned terminal into the air-conditioned train, for just the briefest of moments I get a sensation of the temperature outside. It’s only just gone six but it’s already very hot and humid.
Date: 20. May 2013
To: Bandar Seri Begawan
Aircraft: B 777-200
Airline: Singapore Airlines
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 11A, window, left
All I want to do right now is have a shower. It’s too early and too dark outside anyway to properly make out any of the planes outside. The lounge situation in Changi is a bit confusing. There is a SilverKris Gold Lounge for members travelling in Singapore Airlines’ economy class. And then there is also the SilverKris Lounge for First and Business Class passengers, which, apparently, is the one I am entitled to use today.
When I arrive, the lounge is already quite full. But I’m lucky and don’t have to wait to avail myself of one of the showers. The shower room itself is quite small. I only barely have enough space to open my carry-on to take out a new set of clothes. Shower gel and shampoo are provided, together with a shaving kit, tooth brush and tooth paste.
I’m starting to feel human again. I’m still tired though. For a loss of anything better to do, I find myself a quiet corner and figure I might as well upload my trip report of the previous flight from Zürich. As I write the lounge slowly empties, until eventually there is only a handful of people left.
The food and drink offerings in the lounge are good, with an interesting selection of Western and Asian dishes, both hot and cold. Even so, I can’t really say I like the lounge. First of all, the lack of any natural light makes the place feel rather gloomy. Secondly, the seating options are okay if you’re only in the lounge for a short while. But if, like me, you’re connecting from a long-haul flight, it would be nice to have more comfortable loungers to choose from.
About 90 minutes before departure I have to pack up my things and leave. I’m so exhausted I’m literally having trouble keeping my eyes open. Perhaps if I go for a walk I might wake up again.
So I mosey over to gate F34 from where my flight will be leaving. Changi uses a closed gate concept, with the security check taking place just before you enter the holding pen of the gate area. The gate has just opened. I walk up and down the length of the F pier but eventually decide to call it a day and head through security and into the gate. I take a seat by the window, from where I have excellent views of the ramp and the departing aircraft.
Oops, how embarrassing…I briefly wake up, startled by the sound of my own snoring. I wasn’t actually aware of the fact that you could do that sitting upright. In fact, I wouldn’t have though I’d be able to fall asleep sitting upright in a public place. Just goes to sh…off again. Snoring. The next thing I know I am rudely awakened by the gate agent making an announcement inviting First and Business Class passengers to board the flight. Finally! I make a mental note to book a hotel for my twelve hours layover on the way back. Either that or take a tour of the city.
The cabin on this bird is still in the old configuration. I recognise the First Class seat from five years ago. There are two rows of First Class. The Business Class section is divided in two cabins. I am sitting in seat 11A, which is the first row of the forward cabin. This section has three rows in a 2-3-2 configuration. From what I can tell the second section, on the other side of the galley, also has three rows.
The seat itself is pretty old school, with old-fashioned seat controls that hark back to the late ‘90s. Even so, the seat is very comfortable and although the recline is not fully flat, it still allows for some decent rest – which I’m very much in need of right now.
A few images of the view outside:
One of the crew spots the Air Malta sticker I have on my carry-on. So she follows me to my seat. As she helps me stow my luggage, curiosity gets the better of her and she asks me what Air Malta is. I try to explain to her that it’s the national airline of Malta but draw a blank. We look Malta up in the inflight magazine to find that it isn’t there. So I give up and simply tell her it’s a very small country in the Mediterranean. Later on during the flight, when I’d already forgotten about it, the same flight attendant returns and tells me that the captain actually flew to Malta many years ago, when Singapore Airlines still used to operate to Malta with the B 747-200 in the ‘80s. Blimey, shouldn’t he already be retired by now?
As soon as I am comfortably seated, a male flight attendant arrives with a tray of drinks. I have a glass of orange juice.
Next a female flight attendant brings me the earphones and menu for today’s flight. And then, of course, it’s time for the first hot towel. I’m quite impressed, especially given that the flight time to Brunei is only one hour and 45 minutes.
Eventually the doors close and we push back. It’s a light load today, with only four of the 21 seats in the forward Business Class section occupied.
Taxiing to the active runway:
Once we’re airborne, it takes a while for the fasten seatbelt sign to be turned off. I have a vague recollection of us flying through some turbulence, but I may have been dreaming. But the sound of the food service starting quickly wakes me up again.
The tray arrives with the starter and dessert on it. The starter is marinated shrimps with feta cheese, slices of bell pepper and greens.
Dessert today is something described in the menu as ice jelly with fresh fruit. It comes with the smallest lime I have ever seen. The idea is that you squeeze the lime over the jelly.
The starter is not really very good. First of all the shrimps have a very strong and off-putting smell. The few pieces of feta cheese are okay but the bell peppers are still half frozen.
I choose a slice of garlic bread from the breadbasket, but only remember to take a picture after I’ve already had a bite. Sorry about that.
Eventually the flight attendant arrives with my hot meal. She removes the starter and wishes me a good meal. She also reassures me that if the meal is too spicy I should let her know, they still have something harmless available which I can have if I can’t take the spicy food.
For the main I have the Nasi Uduk. It’s an interesting dish that contains pieces of chicken in some spicy marinade, a fish cake and fried egg with rice cooked in coconut milk. There is also a small tinfoil container with some sort of spicy curry gravy.
The meal is served with a side dish of pickled vegetables.
The meal is quite spicy. During the meal three different flight attendants come to check if I’m alright or if I need some more water, which is of course very considerate of them, although the meal isn’t that hot.
The ice jelly is rather bland. I only have a spoon full to taste and leave the rest. The tray is removed before the coffee service. As on the previous flight, I am quite amazed by how well timed the service is. It’s not at all rushed, but there is no wait either to remove the tray.
I finish the meal with a cup of coffee, which is much better than the one I had on the last flight.
The meal seems to have done wonders to revive me. I’m feeling quite awake again. I suppose it’s also the excitement of visiting a new country. Most of the flight is over the sea. On our way we pass some beautiful looking islands before eventually we reach the Brunei coast.
Brunei itself is very green and lush. From above it doesn’t look very densely populated.
We land and the engines of the mighty triple seven treat us to one last, powerful roar as the reversers open and we slow down on the airport’s single runway.
There’s quite a queue for immigration, but it moves quickly. My suitcase takes a while longer to arrive and for one horrible moment I’m afraid it may not have made it. Eventually though, I finally see it coming round the corner on the conveyor belt. Initially I wonder how on earth I’m supposed to get a hold of it. There are people standing all around the belt, three rows deep. But I needn’t have worried as I get a first impression of the friendliness of the people of Brunei: as my suitcase approaches I try to move to the front to pick it up, but it is to no avail. Fortunately some gentleman up front notices me, picks up the suitcase for me and passes it on to the guy standing right behind him, who then passes it on to me. Thank you very much!
I finally made it. I am in Brunei. Apart from the friendliness and politeness of the people, I am simply amazed by just how clean everything is. I leave you with a few images of Bandar Seri Begawan.